It’s been an autumn of firsts.
I went to my first User Experience symposium a few weeks ago. It was a good conference, two full days, and I learned a lot and met a number of smart and interesting people. For me, the first speaker, Scott Berkun, set a positive tone for the weekend with his very first point:
In short, words matter. Amen.
My name is David Byrd, a doctoral student in the Information and Interaction Design Program at the University of Baltimore in the United States. I’ve got two classes and a dissertation to go until graduation. I am not a traditional student. First, at 54, I’m a bit (read: a lot) older than my classmates, and probably most of you reading this. Also, I work full-time as a researcher and writer, with some project management on the side—but not in the tech industry. My academic background is in journalism, history, political science, and international studies; math gives me a headache, and I did little to nothing in computer science, or even interaction design or information architecture, before I came to Baltimore. Even my avocation, photography, is a “soft” skill. So, essentially, I am a Liberal Arts guy by disposition and training, in a world—especially here at ACM—populated by techies and STEM types.
So, of course, that’s why I agreed to write this, my first blog. No matter the realm, words—plain, straightforward, concise—matter. More broadly, the skills and perspectives of the liberal arts matter. At some point in this blog I might suggest taking a literature or creative writing class—both of which teach you how effective stories are told, or better enable you to empathize with the stories of others: for example, your customers or users. Knowing their stories is the first step to finding out what they want; being able to convey them the first step to selling your solution. Maybe I will say something about poetry—what else is poetry except finding the exact right word, delivered with the right rhythm and force? All of these attributes are important to information architecture, important to web design.
It’s not just writing. The best photographs aren’t just images, they suggest or tell a story. Philosophy teaches us, among other things, different ways to look at the same problem. Sociology provides a perspective on other cultures, and lets us know what’s important to them. History tells where people came from, and from this, perhaps, we can learn where they want to go.
So I’ll jot down my experiences with these and other topics here, and try to show where it applies to the world of technology development. I think the perspective you receive will be a little different than most.
I hope to hear from you, whether on Twitter or email, or drop us a comment at the blog. Let me know what you think, whether I make sense, whether I’m off in left field somewhere, whether I shouldn’t write after that second glass of Pinot. I can always use a little SOS in my endeavors, so just give me a shout. Hopefully we can start a conversation that helps you as well as me.